when we met we were like twins. oh, not in our selfhood — but in our dailies, we were the same. we loved the same people, the same music, the same activities. we were one. we loved everything but each other, but i guess you loved me then so nothing really applies. we went everywhere together, did everything together.
i was that girl who’s always okay. i was so bright then. i was the center of our group, which was our world. my word was law, and i brought you and everyone to your knees. i knew how to keep it all inside then, and while my scars were an advertisement they were also a mystery. i had no past but what i told you, and you loved every story of it. i had no trait but what i chose, and everything i chose was lovely.
of course, you all knew something was wrong with me, but it seemed a normal kind of wrong. teen angst not yet outgrown, maybe, or a kind of malaise that we all experienced to one degree or another. we walked everywhere when it wasn’t dark, but you never knew that everywhere i went was dark. i don’t know who i was then, really. all i know is that i love her now, and your eyes were never good enough.
the first time you told me you loved me i drank an entire bottle of vodka in five gulps. it burned but i kept going; everyone knew what you’d whispered in my ear, and the last thing i needed was your love. i threw it up extravagantly on the back porch, just fifteen feet from the shed where you stood bewildered, and went inside to change into a borrowed negligeé. i slept with anyone but you that night, and you knew exactly why.
i don’t know where that girl went. i was everything to everyone, and my ugliness was safely tucked away. i lost that skill — both skills — along the way, and it’s so easy to blame you.
even after that travesty you were there, my shadow. my other half. my receptacle of scorn and humor; my target for pushing. the power i had over you, then, it extended to all of us — even me. i would have been just as in love with me then, if i was me now. maybe i was half in love with me then, anyway. i know i loved the attention, the centrality of me. my entire world was you and us and everyone, and it all turned on me. i can see objectively, like i did then, why you were so besotted.
still, i was myself, and my secrets were my own. we were like the military, about me: nobody asked, and i never told. i loved it, the power of being us, and the privacy of being me. you were all beneath me somehow, and you most of all; i was at the bottom, of course. it’s so heady, being both above and below. altitude isn’t only physical, and i was dizzy with the life i thought i’d made by myself. i was so pretty, and so heartrendingly young. i slept with your friends, i called you names, i laughed and kissed your cheek. i played games that i thought were just my personality, and i never counted the cost. never.
i left and came back changed, different, scared. i’d been alone, and i decided nothing was worse. i crawled beneath your sheets and i said just for now, just for a while, just for this week. we kissed drunkenly and video’d each other singing ballads — then i ran out into the storm and sat, sobbing and soaked, wishing for something more than you. when you followed, i thought it meant my own need. my first thought when i peed on the stick was oh, shit. shit. every molecule of blood fell from my face to my feet to the ground and you said nothing.
i changed from a slum to a halfway house, my mom and my nascent roommate crowding into an icebox, and you did nothing. you said nothing, but you were there and i thought it counted. i dragged my gravid self from icebox to home, and i thought in my shared apartment — we could do this. the apartment was nice and my roommate was a rock; i traveled miles every day to better myself and what i had was already pretty good. my roommate and i, we could do this. but there you were, and i shook it all off to come.
so i came. there we were, you and your parents and me, and nothing fit. i gave birth mostly alone, because my friends couldn’t drag you from the ice cream counter. my ex-roommate made worried faces and made outlandish trips for mocha cravings and when i started writhing she stormed out, angry and loving about my pain. who is your advocate? she asked, and i had no idea, though she was trying. when you came in you said nothing, so i kicked everyone out and traveled alone. when the baby came pride of place was yours, but you took less than a minute before handing him off and asking for someone else. i smiled through the pain and embarrassment and publicity, and missed my baby and you. i don’t remember you through the rest of the stay, but when we came home it was your mother who found us our own.
you never protected our sanctity and for the next years i fought. i fought everyone, fiercely, trying to uphold our tiny family’s right to exist as it was. i was drinking far too much, sleeping never, bleeding out everything i could have used, and you didn’t exist in our house. the baby was gorgeous, an irish baby if there ever was, and you could not have cared less. you went out and made new friends, and somehow the center of your world shifted. i wasn’t the capricious and necessary center i’d been; instead, i was yesterday’s fish and chips liner. alone in the house with a baby i loved desperately, i drank to die.
when our wedding came i had to be completely plastered before the vows. i appointed the one friend who still adored me matron-of-the-booze and she poured shots down my throat at the appointed intervals. i was rotund and red-faced in the dress, too tired to care if you found me beautiful. you hadn’t in a year. my friends came to celebrate, yours came to lament. your family shut me out, telling me acerbicly that i was welcome to the “crazy part” of the family, neglecting to mention the other part. at our reception there was no family, no groom, just me the booze and the few who still loved me. i pretended the girl i’d been still existed and made plans for a new place, a new way.
at a year i lost a baby and while i was still in the hospital bed you told me someone else was carrying your real baby. i stared and blinked and tried to remember how to keep a lid on all this. they used to write things like, “face immobile, never cries, monotone” on my charts, and i used those as my script. i came home and bled and bled and your chippy showed up at the door. i pretended ignorance and squeezed my own child, now truly my own, no part of you. we moved, and moved again, while i shed friends like taffeta. by the time we landed i was ostensibly alone, you with your parents and me wihth my two jobs-no sleep-death wish. i was no longer capricious or fun; i had become my ambition — scarlett o’hara, is there anything more clichéd? — and i was hard. i worked and i worked and when i didn’t work i panicked.
when i finally made new friends you panicked, and i mistook it for love and need. we found a new home and i stayed home. you never came home at night, but i didn’t need a life anyway. i had our baby and our home and no sleep. by the time there was a problem i was isolated: friendless, jobless, cashless, hopeless. i begged for your support as i found my feet, but you turned away. i held the course. i forgot what feeling was. i wrote about our bright shiny home, kitchen, garden, child. i spent hours each night watching you out loud, waiting for you to speak to me.
i found a mass in my body, and it was removed. it could have been a baby, it could have been lining. i was terrified for two weeks and you vanished. i went in for surgery, surgery i paid for by begging, and on the way home you asked to go to denny’s. i thought about the pain and loss of my future, and went out to the car. when it turned out to be lining i was relieved. i no longer wanted your children. the day after the surgery, stitches and pain fresh in my body, you left me in the store with pounds of bags to lift and no way to do it. when i started hemorrhaging and company arrived, you decamped for parts irresponsible. i spent the weekend irascible, dizzy, sleepless, and bloody.
we moved again, and i could no longer keep our story straight. together or separate, i hurt. together or separate, i was alone. my hands twisted into black forest shapes, my hips turning both inward and outward, until i was a hunched and deformed shell of myself. i kept everything gleaming and you were never around to see. i lied to myself about love, about happiness, and i looked around and said it was good. the house, the garden, the kid, the cooking. it was all good and it was all none of you. i didn’t need anything because i needed everything and there was no well from which to draw. i found lie after lie and i ignored them because men — men — they will be men.
i’m decaying now. losing control now. it’s been years now, and i am less able to polish turds. the twisting that began in my body is running its course and i am something out of a horror movie — angles that should not exist, not alongside recognizable breasts and calves and stomach. i have forgotten how to immobilize my face, how to keep to a monotone, so i hide. my child had begun to hate the monster and you are nowhere to be found. you are lying and escaping and withdrawing and scathing. i scream sometimes when i must be straight and you are disdainful. you have turned me into a monster with no friends, no life, no ability, no ease, and no grace. you hate me, my twin, and that hate is my own. divorce has become a useless and meaningless word, and every day i draw closer to a word that still retains its strength. you still say nothing, but i think i’m accustomed now.
- Taylor Swift
- * Ed. Note: I quibbled forever before putting this one up, and then I thought fuck it — these blawg things used to be called journals, back in the day. And now I’m paranoid. The end.